Over the last few days, I’ve been part of and witness to a number of conversations about issues of race, mostly with other white women. I have a number of friends who are in various stages of heartbreak and anger and frustration about the state of things and about how hard it can be to know what to do when you feel like you are living in a world gone mad.
It can be so hard to know what to do with the feelings of anger and despair that come up when there is another shooting, another story of a Black man killed, another circumstance when it seems like being Black is a crime and the punishment is public execution.
Others have written eloquently about what white people can do when confronted with evidence of the fact that, yes, structural racism and the violence it creates is still a problem. There is so much work yet to be done. There are big things we need to do better as a country, conversations that we need to have on both national and personal levels.
But this isn’t a post about big things. I’m not feeling confident enough of myself as a person or a writer to tackle those things tonight. Instead, I make a tiny suggestion: buy a book. Specifically, buy a book featuring Black characters and give it to a child you love.
I think of buying a book as making a tiny statement that we want these stories to be part of our kids lives, especially white kids. Books create worlds, books introduce children to characters that the might love for the rest of their lives. A bookshelf is a neighborhood, a place where princesses and dump trucks and mother bunnies with abandonment issues can all rub elbows. Here are some books my family loves that can make sure your neighborhood has some diversity:
Feast for 10 is a simple and gentle book about a trip to the grocery store and a family dinner. Ideal for ages 2-4.
Ada Twist, Scientist is fantastic in every way. The illustrations are delightful, the story is terrific, and I am happy to read it nightly,which is currently Ev’s wish.
In full disclosure, I like this book more than my children seem too, for reasons I don’t understand. The Hello Goodbye Window is sweet and funny and I adore Chris Raschka’s illustrations.
Speaking of Chris Raschka:
Charlie Parker Played Be Bop is one of my all time favorite board books. Ever. It is so fun to read. When Miles was a baby/toddler, this was his favorite and reading it would stop tears and tantrums instantly.
Also a great book for little people:
Please Baby Please features one of the cutest babies in illustration. She is so pinchable.
Speaking of pinchable babies, I want to snuggle every single baby Helen Oxenbury has ever illustrated. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes is adorable as is her Baby Love set, which is a fantastic baby shower gift.
Oh, and I have to mention So Much. I love So Much.
For older kids, the Captain Underpants series of books features two protagonists, one white and one Black, and many many many jokes about farts and boogers. Right up my 8 year old’s alley.
My son is also a big fan of the I Survived series.
I Survived The Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 is a good one for kids who like history mixed with a little adventure.
Please note that I get no money if you buy any of these books. These are just some of the best loved ones in our house. I’d love to hear if you have others you’d add to the list.